Exploring Differences in Attitudes between Light and Heavy Brand Users
by Robert D. Jewell (Kent State University)
H. Rao Unnava (The Ohio State University)
Overview of Findings
For this research, the authors were interested in understanding how certain below-the-surface factors affect a consumer’s general attitude. In particular, the authors were interested to see if the below-the-surface factors of someone’s attitude are different depending on whether the person is a heavy or light user of a particular brand.
Some of the below the surface factors related to attitude that were studied by the researchers were:
In a study on attitudes toward fast food restaurants, participants were divided into two groups: those who indicated that they were frequent visitors of Arby’s (that is, heavy users) and those who indicated they were infrequent visitors of Arby’s (that is light users).
The researchers found that indeed, the below-the-surface factors associated with an attitude were different for heavy versus light users of Arby’s. Specifically, for heavy users, Brand Accessibility was strongly related to Attitude-Affective Consistency. This means that for heavy users, it appears that one’s feelings are strongly related to brand name recall. In contrast, for light users, Brand Accessibility was strongly related to Brand Knowledge. This means that for light users, it appears that one’s knowledge, and not one’s feelings of a brand is strongly related to brand name recall.
The results from this study suggest that if advertisers would follow different message strategies, they should be able to improve brand recall for heavy versus light users. Therefore, in a second study, participants were once again divided into heavy and light users of a fast food restaurant, but this time the restaurant used was Taco Bell. Two advertisements were developed; one was an informative ad that directly addressed several attributes related to Taco Bell such as good taste and low prices. A second ad was more of an emotional ad that referred to the experience of going to Taco Bell such as how Taco Bell looks, feels, and smells different from other restaurants.
It was found that for heavy users, brand name recall was higher for the emotional ad than for the informative ad. Conversely, for light users it was found that brand name recall was higher for the informative ad than for the emotional ad.
Significance of the research
This suggests that advertisers of a brand should consider whether the intended audience is comprised of mainly heavy or mainly light users of a brand. Specifically, advertising for a new brand, with few heavy users, should consider a rational approach to the advertising. Conversely, advertising for well-established brands, where the goal is to maintain brand loyalty, should consider an emotional approach to the advertising.
As a consumer, this research suggests that you need to be aware of the fact that you may be more susceptible to a particular type of advertising message depending on whether you are a heavy or light user of a brand. When viewing advertising, try to determine if the approach is more rational or more emotional. Chances are that you will be more accepting of an emotional ad if you are already a heavy user of the brand than if you are a light user.
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